Words Are Important

Words Are Important

As someone who has been physically and emotionally (verbally) abused, I’ve come to accept that words are triggers for me.  No matter how tough I thought I had become, no matter how thick I though my walls were, words still manage to lay my heart bare.

Growing up, my defense to hurtful words was to either slay you with my own vast array of vocabulary and wit, or I’d withdraw, depending upon how strong I was feeling at the time.  I’ve never really been a fighter, although I can certainly more than take care of myself if needed and I generally do not hesitate to fight for others, I rarely fight for myself.  You see, in my house growing up, “fighting” for yourself meant the consequences were only magnified.  If I just shut up, retreated to my room and remained as invisible as possible, things were easier.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that I generally take words to heart more than I should.  Put more simply, I take things personally.  I know now, that its a byproduct of being abused for so many years.  It’s always a work in progress; it’s always me reminding myself to take a breath, to ask for clarity, to step back and process it as if it had nothing to do with me personally.  I’ve gotten really good at that, but there are still times when words tear me apart.  If that makes me “weak” in some people’s perception, than so be it.  If people think I’m too sensitive, oh well.  I say it makes me more sensitive to the emotional needs of others, or rather more compassionate.

What my experiences have taught me, though, I apply to my relationships with others.  Words can hurt.  Words can’t be forgotten.  Words cannot be taken back.  Once you put them out there, it’s done.  I weigh my words very carefully because if I care about the person, I certainly don’t want to hurt them by saying something in the heat of the moment that isn’t meant and certainly isn’t the representation of love that I want to show.  I’m not perfect.  I still say things in anger or frustration, but those times are few and far between anymore.  If I do, I own up and apologize and I do my very best to never do it again.

At the same time, I’ve also learned that at an appropriate time in a relationship, I need to have this conversation with that person.  If I don’t let them know, I cannot expect them to be cognizant of it.  Again, I realize there are always times in any relationship when things are said in the heat of the moment and if you’re mature enough, it can be talked out.  If I say something that hurt someone’s feelings, you better believe I say I’m sorry.  I’m sorry means: I’m sorry that what I said hurt your feelings even though it was not intended that way.  I’m sorry doesn’t mean: I’m sorry you took it the wrong way.  There is a subtle, yet important difference in those two statements.  The first accepts that while you didn’t say something to be hurtful, it felt that way to the other person and you don’t want them to hurt.  The second statement is not truly you’re sorry for anything – it neatly lays the blame for the hurt at the feet of the person you claim to care about and it is therefore their fault they hurt.  Yes, we are all responsible for our reactions to everything, I agree.  We own how we respond.  I own that sometimes harsh or blunt statements do hurt me.  I own it.  However, I also think that in relationships, if you truly care about the other person and you are aware of their past, you make an extra effort to be more gentle with your words.  And if you do say something that hurts, just honestly say I’m sorry.  It’s not a contest, it’s not who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s compassion.  Honestly, I’m not looking for who is wrong if someone says something that hurts me, I’m looking for them to just acknowledge that I am hurt and the compassion to show me they care.

This world is cruel enough.  Be compassionate and understanding of other people’s backgrounds.  Differences are beautiful, but compassion for those differences makes you astonishingly beautiful.


The Lies We Are Told

The Lies We Are Told

Growing up I heard a lot of horrible things said to scare or justify beliefs and behaviors.  Things like people were gay because they had been abused or they didn’t have a father or mother.  Any excuse that could be had to nullify the possibility that maybe gay people were simply born that way.  I’ve never understood why it is so difficult for them to accept that it’s possible for someone to be born with the biological desire to be attracted to and love someone of the same-sex.  Why?  Some people are born with brown eyes, some with blue and others with green.

Oh, I’ve heard all the cherry picked Bible verses used to support the “sin” of homosexuality, and as a child I believed them.  I believed them because I knew no better, it’s the only thing I had ever been told.  The longer I’ve been away, the more I’ve realized that in a manner of speaking it is like being brainwashed.  For the most part, I didn’t know what other ways of thinking there were.  I also was terrified to even think about anything that went against what was preached.  I know now, that everyone chooses to interpret the Bible differently.  No one truly knows if it was truly divinely inspired or just a book of stories (many which were taken from other cultures) to make a religion.  In my recent post It’s Just Me – I haven’t Changed I discussed the many fallacies of those cherry picked versus.

These “reasons” the Christian community has used for “why” people are gay are the main reason I have rarely spoken of the fact that I was sexually abused by two different people as a child.  I felt like if I spoke about it, especially around my family, that it would be used as an “excuse” or “justification” of why I was gay instead of focusing on the truths of the matter.  The first being that I was BORN gay.  I was not made this way by the fact that I was sexually abused.  I was not made this way by the fact that I had a physically abusive father.  I was not made this way because I had a largely absent mother (she was always travelling for work).  I am exactly who I was created to be.  The second being that it diminishes the reality that they have a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin who is gay, PERIOD.  Rather, they could then say well my cousin is gay, but she was abused as a kid so she probably hates men.  I do not hate men, nor do I do not want to be the “man” in the relationship.  I simply have no physical or emotional attraction to a man.  I am just me.

When I say my family was ultra-religious/conservative, I’ll expound upon that so you understand that gravity of what I was dealing with in my family & community arena.  Several of my great-grandfathers were pastors, two of my uncles are pastors, three of my male cousins are pastors & my brother is a pastor.  There are more missionaries in my family that I can even begin to count, including my own mother, who spent seven years as a medical missionary in Nigeria.  Her uncle is buried there after spending most of his adult life as a missionary there.  Another of her uncles spent his entire adult life there also.  My mother’s family is very well-known as her family was instrumental in starting a Christian college in Northern Indiana, which 60+ years later is very well-known in the Christian community.  At one time in the early 90’s there were thirteen first cousins attending the school, including my brother.  The administration building is named after my family as is one of the upper classmen apartment buildings.   I followed shortly after.  I grew up going to church camp every summer for two weeks.  I spent every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday at church.  My grandfather was very well-known in the community as he and my grandmother ran one of the largest producing dairy farms in the U.S.  I couldn’t go anywhere without someone saying “Oh, you’re an (my grandparent’s last name) or oh you’re XXX’s granddaughter or XXX’s daughter.”  The amount of pressure to be “perfect” was immense.  And being gay was certainly far from perfect.

All of that combined with the “shame” attached to being gay kept me from discussing the fact that I was molested because I felt it was attached to that shame. I also didn’t want to give anyone that power to say that’s what made me gay.  Unfortunately, I’m sure not discussing it wasn’t very healthy!

When I realized that one of my male cousins (who co-incidentally was adopted) was gay, I realized that he took a lot of the pressure off me because he “shattered” the “perfect” image of our family.  Then I began to realize though, the damage it had done to him.  My heart breaks when I think about what he’s gone through and how it’s affected his entire adult life.  I’m sure they could say “oh he’s adopted so it must be something from his birth family” but he was a newborn when they adopted him.  So then, in the conservative theory, it must be his home life – either he had an absent mother or father or he was abused.  None of those are true.  I began to think about it more.  Their philosophy is that it’s either the way you were nurtured (or lack there of) as a child OR you chose to be gay.  I don’t think he would have chosen to be gay, or at the very least, pretended to be straight after the shame and degradation he’s gone through from his parents.  So that leads back to the way he was nurtured.  That can’t be true or it would shatter the “perfect” image that our family worked so hard to maintain. They certainly couldn’t admit to that, it couldn’t be something they did that made him gay.  The truth of the matter is, he’s gay because he’s gay.  He just is who he is.  He’s still a fantastic human being, but he’s a human being that’s been led to believe he’s living a life of sin his whole life and that has taken a toll on him & I can hear a lot of bitterness when he talks. Who can blame him?

About a year ago, one of my cousin’s son’s came out to me on Facebook (in a private message) and asked for some advice.  He then promptly came out on Facebook for the whole world to see and has never looked back.  That’s not to say he has not dealt with fallout from our family.  It truly saddens me the lack of Christ’s love that they portray in their dealings with him.

Over the years, I’ve watched other “scandalous” things occur in our family like divorce, alcoholism, sex before marriage, etc. and it’s come to help me see that I was so afraid of  being the one that messed it all up, when in reality they were all just living a facade.  Their own families had issues.

My memories before age thirteen are very fragmented due to a serious accident I was in at twelve.  I’ve either subconsciously blocked out who the first person was that molested me or the accident took that memory from me.  However, I very clearly recall who the second person was and to this day I have only told two people.  I sometimes wonder if he ever thinks about it and if he thinks I don’t remember it because of my memory loss.  I don’t let it rule my life other than to be hyper aware of the fact that there are people in your life that may appear to be one thing, but in reality are hiding ugliness.  It’s usually those people who either go to the extreme of shaming others with perceived flaws (like being gay) or they stay silent because they have a guilty conscience and know they have no right to throw stones.

Being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is being the victim of abuse.  The way you handle yourself and your presentation to the world is everything.  You can choose to be bitter and angry or you can choose to show love and live your life happily.

Always remember – you are perfect (created the way you were meant to be), you are beautiful (with all your flaws), you are worth it (and should be treated as such), you are special (just like everyone else is).  Don’t ever let anyone make you feel differently.


Who Am I? Things I’ve Learned About Myself

In general, I’ve always been a pretty private person.  I am an introvert by nature, but one who has mastered the art of speaking in front of large crowds & classes.  I can function in a large group, but I prefer small groups of people I know.  I can work a Pride crowd, talking to strangers and hand out flyers like a pro, but deep down inside still lurks the past.

I was blessed (although at many times it didn’t feel like a blessing) with a mind that functions at a very quick pace and I never had to put much effort into school.  When I was in 1st grade, I was tested and moved into an accelerated learning class beginning in 2nd grade.  Even then I was bored.  To make matters worse, I never really seemed to “fit” in with any group.  My family wasn’t wealthy so I never fit in with the “cool” kids because I didn’t wear name brand clothes & shoes.  I didn’t fit in with the “girls” because I wasn’t girly enough.  I was picked on as a lot of kids are, but what no one on the outside realized, was what I was also dealing with at home.  When I say I was picked on, I mean it was so bad that my older brother actually taught me how to defend myself and fight.  He would let the neighbor boys fight me (sometimes 3 on 1) until he felt I couldn’t hold my own anymore and then he would step in.  Combine this with an abusive home, it’s no wonder by the time I hit college people were literally scared of me.

I went to 4 different elementary schools and by the time I reached the last one (mid 5th grade) it was time for basketball tryouts and it was a predominantly white school.  I think the tryouts were actually on my first day at the school and I don’t think any of the other girls were too thrilled when I showed up.  I was a newby and I loved to play ball.  I had spent the last 3 1/2 years honing my basketball skills with my African-American friends at my prior school, where I was the minority.  They had accepted me, respected me, defended me and now here I was in a new school starting all over again.  I was an outsider again.  It was that awkward point in your life when your hormones are kicking in, etc.

6th grade was really a turning point in my life, starting with my accident.  It was the first, clear memory I have of my father ever verbally “attacking” me.  I won’t go into details about the accident but it was a pedestrian vs. motor vehicle (guess which one I was).  I remember immediately before impact and nothing of the actual accident.  I did regain consciousness immediately upon impacting the pavement and sliding to a stop.  When my parents reached the scene, the first and only thing I remember my father saying was chastising me for being “so stupid”.  My mom made her usual excuses for him saying “he was just scared.”  I didn’t question her, but those words had a huge impact on my psyche.  Now, as an adult and mother, I look back on that situation and wonder how a parent could be so cold.

7th grade was a nightmare for me.  I got the worst case of chicken pox my pediatrician had ever seen, compounded with pneumonia.  I literally had them down my esophagus (they could see them on the x-ray they took for my pneumonia).  Even though I did not scratch, I was left with MANY scars from it, which a lot of them were raised (they think this was caused by my high fever).  A lot of those scars were on my face.  You can imagine, a young kid with scars all over their face is going to be subject to bullying.  Mine didn’t come just in the form of school kids but also from kids at our church.  It got so bad that I had to threaten to kick the pastor’s daughter’s ass if she ever said another word.  I also ended up getting scarlet fever that year. I missed over 60 days of school that year due to illness.

8th grade wasn’t much better for me.  I became depressed.  My parents were rarely home (which wasn’t any different from the rest of my childhood), which made it a ton easier to not go to school.

By 9th grade I had pretty much given up on myself.  I still got A’s in school although I rarely put any effort into assignments.  I was so depressed that I skipped school constantly and stayed in my room a lot.  No one seemed to care.

By the beginning of the 2nd semester of 10th grade, I convinced my mom to let me drop out of school.  I still continued to get good grades, but my unexcused absences had exceeded the number allowable to maintain your credits.  The principal informed my mom that they would yank my credits for that semester.  Several of my teachers fought for me because they could see the potential in me, but it was a hopeless case.  I didn’t see the point in continuing to go to school if wasn’t going to get credit for it.  I convinced her I would go to summer school and make it up.  That never happened.  Life was getting infinitely worse at home.  My mom travelled all the time so she was rarely there and my dad was rarely either.  It was during this time that my father spoke probably the singular thing I will remember my entire life (and no it wasn’t I love you, because I don’t ever remember hearing him say that as a child).  We were arguing in our kitchen and he screamed at me that I was worthless and I would amount to nothing.

Those words still haunt me at times.  But those words also made me mad.  I was tired of people treating me like I was worthless.  I made up my mind that I was going to do whatever it took to graduate high school on time, with the grades that I needed to get in to college.  I moved out of my parents house at 17 and in with one of my older sisters. I finished 3 years of school in 2 years time and started college in the fall of ’93 with a huge chip on my shoulder.

Deep down inside, I was still a little child desperately seeking the approval of her parents and so I did everything I could to hear those words that every child wants to hear.  “I’m proud of you.”  I had developed such a “hard” persona that I never let anyone close to me, never trusted anyone.  I was unapproachable.  As the years passed and I was away from home, I had softened my outer appearance and I actually had people tell me that they had been afraid to speak to me as a freshman because I seemed so angry.  My outer shell may have softened, but inside was a wall of steel.  I was determined to never let anyone close enough to be able to hurt me with their words & actions.

I grew up in the shadow of a very well-known, respected and large family.  I never felt like I fit in and the pressure of keeping up appearances grew to be unbearable.  I was hiding the very core of me because I felt I was dirty, a sinner and worthless.  These feelings were compounded by the actions of some very hypocritical leaders in our denomination when they found out (by no choice of mine) that I was gay.  This was simply unacceptable and they made sure that many of the pastors in our district knew by sending out a letter to them and purposefully excluding any that they knew were related to me (which was quite a few).  This was devastating to me and I have seldom been inside a church since.

I’ve carried that shell for almost 20 years.  There have been many other things in my life that have contributed to it aside from the things I’ve mentioned.  I have lived a long distance away from where I grew up for 16 years now, purposefully distancing myself from all of that.  I do not have a lot of “friends” but rather “acquaintances”.

In December 2014 my father’s health began to decline and I was forced to face some demons.  What kind of legacy did I want to leave this world with?  What kind of person did I want to be?  My parents had not prepared for their deaths, even though both were 84.  My father went in to hospice in January 2015 and the reality of his death faced my mother and siblings.  They had no arrangements & no money to pay for them.  I knew that I did and I had to take a hard look inside myself.  Everything inside me screamed “Too damn bad, why should I help you when all you did was make my life miserable?”  When the time came and he passed, my mom called me first.  I told her I would call my siblings and as I hung up the phone I knew I had a choice to make.  Would I perpetuate a legacy of hate or would I lay it down and choose love.  That choice took me only seconds.  I chose love.  I paid for my father’s funeral, I went to his funeral (although I did not stay for more than about 10 minutes of the service) and I tried to put aside the anger that boiled inside of me.

As I laid down that anger and hate, I’ve been handed a new start.  I’ve decided to be different, to live differently, to love and to allow myself to heal.  It hasn’t been easy and I have a long way to go.  I have spent the last 10 months learning to be different in my relationships, especially with my girlfriend.  It’s incredibly hard to allow myself to be open because it gives the opportunity to be hurt.

People have asked me why I choose to write storylines the way I do.  My answer is this.  Life isn’t all fairy tales and princesses.  Some people have wonderful lives and never know pain, but the majority of people, especially in the LGBT community know hurt all too well.  I want to be able to connect with a character and in order to do that, they have to be human.  In my life experiences, human is broken, hurting, afraid and imperfect.  All of those things have made me who I am.  It also makes me extremely sensitive with my interactions with others.  If we believe that fairly tale endings are the only way to be happy with ourselves, then we need to reconsider.  You can achieve happiness even if it’s peppered with struggles, pain and differences.  Happiness is what you make of it.

Whatever your life experiences are, you are beautiful, you are special and you are loved.  Differences are beauty.  You may not be good at everything, but you are capable.  You may not be what society deems as pretty or “hot” but you are beautiful.  Life is so much more than physical appearances and words on a page.  Romance isn’t all roses and candlelight.  True love isn’t about being perfect.  It’s about seeing each other’s imperfections as beauty.

You are loved.  You are beautiful.  You are worthy.  You are special.  You are perfect.

A healing time

A healing time

Seven months ago, my dad passed away at the age of 84.  Shortly before he passed, I posted this blog How Not To Be A Human.

As with any passing, his decline and eventual death was difficult for our family.  My family is what society has labeled as “blended” but I have never thought of it that way, maybe because I was born into it.  For me, my siblings were simply that, my siblings.  There was no distinction of “half” or distinguishing phrasing that “we shared a dad, but had different moms” when introduced to or discussed with someone.  In my naiveté, I didn’t realize that those lines were being drawn by our own father.  For what purpose, I will never know.  Maybe it was to rob my sister’s of yet another mother (their own mother died in a car accident when they were young) or simply out of spite.  The reasoning isn’t important anymore.  Following his death, we discovered that he had been the perpetrator of ill-feelings and stories between our mom and my sisters.

This only served to inflame my anger towards him.  This world has a way of throwing curve balls at you.  I’m sure the Universe as laughing at me when I realized that because there had been no arrangements made, no money to pay for them, and no one who was able to; except me.  I have always been a giver, but this was a ridiculous thing to ask of me.  I was supposed to, no I HAD to pay for my dad’s funeral?  Seriously?  A man I had spent the past 27 years avoiding at all costs?  It was a fleeting thought, because who I am is not someone who would cause other’s to suffer because of my own issues.  So, my family came first and without another thought, I paid for his funeral.  Sometimes life is just what it is and letting go of things that aren’t important is how you survive.

I hadn’t seen the majority of my extended family in probably 10 years or more and the prospect of the funeral was overwhelming for me (I am also an introvert).  Because of my earlier mentioned post (of which was read by all), the secret my family had kept for 40+ years was out in the open.  My blog did not go in to details, those are things that have stayed between my siblings and me for many years.  However, for a period of about a week, I began to receive 1 email a day from a different aunt/uncle.   Their response was overwhelming and healing.

The night before dad’s funeral, my brother stayed at my mom’s house with her.  During their conversations that night, she said one thing that I don’t think will ever leave my mind. “I know I’m 84, but do you think it’s possible that I could find someone and know how love can really be?”  My brother thought that it was adorable and cute, which it was.  Deep inside me, my heart screamed in pain.  How utterly crushing to know that your mom had never known how wonderful true love could be.

A month after our dad’s passing, our mom fell and broke her hip.  We realized that it just was no longer feasible or safe for her to remain in her home.  Our lives were once again thrown in to chaos as we scrambled to figure out what to do.  Strings were pulled, people were phenomenal in volunteering their time and hard work. In a matter of 3 months, we were able to get her moved into a retirement home where everyone knew her and loved her; get through a life-time of hoarded things (our dad was a fairly significant hoarder) and sell their house (after 2 days on the market) for a profit.  These things have all been a challenge as my brother lives 5 hours from the area and I live 6 hours from them.  This means that a lot of the “heavy lifting” was left to our older sisters.

Through all of this, old wounds have begun to heal.  New wounds have been opened as we’ve learned more about his behavior and those have begun to heal also.  What has become crystal clear though is this: we are a family, with no distinctions made.  My mom has discovered that regardless of everything she may have been told, my sister’s love her.  My sister’s have discovered that regardless of what they were told, my mom is a new person.  All of us have discovered that we all grieve in different ways and we are all healing in different ways.

My mom grieves for the companion of 46 years that is now gone.  My sister’s grieve for their dad; they now have lost two parents and I cannot imagine, but I sometimes pretend that I can.  It must feel utterly lonely at times to know that you have no biological parent walking this earth.  My brother grieves for the father he always wanted, but never had.  Instead, he strives to be the kind of father he wanted to his own 3 kids.  I grieve for the approval and pride I always wanted from him, but never felt.  Instead, I strive to make sure my own son knows every day that I love him, I’m proud of him and I will never be disappointed in him.  The grandkids (those that are grown and had their own experiences with their grandpa) have made a conscious decision that this learned behavior stops with us.  We will not perpetuate this behavior to another generation.

My mom is healing.  She’s a completely different person.  She says “I love you” to us all, she praises all 5 of us to anyone who will listen.  She asked me the other night if I was okay if she went on a date to her high school reunion.  I thought it was cute and I wanted to shout “Are you crazy, why wouldn’t I WANT you to go out with someone who will treat you well?”

My siblings and I have found a different type of healing.  We’ve discovered that we truly do make a team and despite our differences, it comes down to just one thing.  We are a family and that’s all that matters.

Bullying: It’s more than you think.

Bullying: It’s more than you think.

Bullying is a topic that has gotten a ton of media in the past five years or so.  It’s not a new problem, nor is it limited to kids.  When I was a kid, we called it “getting picked on” and I endured it quite frequently.  I was bullied for various reasons: I was a “tomboy” who had short hair, frequently dressed more like a “boy” than a “girl” and was often more athletic and stronger than the boys my age;  I was tall.  I hit 5′ 7″ tall by the time I was 13 years old;  I had the worst case of chicken pox my doctor had ever seen at age 13, which left me with raised scars even though I never scratched them.  I was made fun off mercilessly until they began to fade.

Something I’ve discovered over the years, is that not only do kids bully (or pick on) other kids, but adults do it also.  In fact, where do our kids learn most of their behaviors (especially early on)?  From watching the adults.  I’ve come to realize that bullying is really just another term for abuse.  Let’s just call it what it is.  Sometimes it comes in the form of verbal abuse, sometimes in the form of physical abuse and often times they happen together.

I’ve been watching posts on my personal Facebook page over the past few months, making some notes on things that I have seen adults posting that are really just bullying disguised as a righteous opinion.  Here are a few that I’ve seen lately:

1)  An acquaintance of mine posted a comment along with a picture about people not speaking English and living in America.  While I do agree, at times it can be frustrating when trying to communicate with someone who does not speak fluent English, let’s think about this differently.

While English is the official language of the United States it also happens to be (for those of us that were born in the states) probably the ONLY language we speak.  Let’s face it, we are arrogant and entitled.  We have a great lack of respect for other cultures and traditions that are different from our own.  I get so tired of hearing people make comments like “I hate when they don’t speak English because I don’t know what they are saying.”  That doesn’t mean the person DOESN’T know how to speak English (which they very well might) but it most certainly means you don’t speak Spanish – so who is the smarter one in this situation?  We have lost sight of our own heritage.  This is supposed to be a melting pot of nations and people.  I can guarantee you that the majority of our families did not come to this country speaking English and most likely the first generation living here did not, but their children learned.  My grandfather grew up in a household that spoke only German (when at home) and English when in public.  It died with them, they never passed that wonderful gift of being bilingual on to their children.  My father was born into a family who also spoke German at home, but they quit speaking it in his early childhood and he never learned to fluently speak it although he could understand and speak enough to get by.  What a horrible waste of our German heritage all because they conformed to social norms rather than be bullied because they spoke another language.

As an adult, I challenge you to see if you can learn a second language.  Good luck!  Stop worrying about whether or not someone else speaks English and worry about teaching your own children proper English/grammar.

2)  Of course, the hot topic right now is Caitlyn Jenner (fna Bruce Jenner).  I’ve seen some pretty obnoxious posts about how she shouldn’t be called a women, etc.  The smart ass in me wants to respond with “You’re just jealous because she looks better than you (or your wife, etc.).”  However, I’ve refrained!  The one that really angered me though, was a post referencing the fact that she won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and comparing her to what “true” courage and bravery was – showing pictures of WWII soldiers, etc.

Caitlyn is an amazing example of courage.  She has the courage to stand in the face of social norms and live authentically.  She is an example to tens of thousands of transgendered youth (and adults) around the world; a beacon of hope.  It’s hard for people outside of our community to understand and grasp just how groundbreaking people like Caitlyn and Laverne Cox are and how many lives their courage may save.  Are they running through a hail of bullets carrying an injured comrade on their back to safety?  Of course not, but there are many types of bravery.  The definition of bravery is: brave spirit or conduct; courage; valor. If their actions or words save even one transgendered person from suicide, while they themselves stand in the face of criticism and bigotry, that is indeed the definition of bravery.

Take a step back people.  You don’t have to agree with something to be respectful.  You’re teaching your children (and other people’s children) to disrespect someone who is different from you and that behavior can have deadly consequences down the road.

3)  Muslims want to kill Americans.  Seriously people, it’s been 14 flipping years since 9/11.  Don’t get me wrong, I will NEVER forget exactly where I was at or the horror that filled that day.  I work in aviation AND I was married to a military member at the time.  My cousin worked (and was at) the Pentagon that day and saw first hand the devastation and loss of co-workers/friends, yet she doesn’t hate Muslims.  Muslims are not the boogey man.  Not all Muslims are radicals, just like not all Christians are radical, intolerant and bigots.  I managed to sit for a year next to our intern, who happened to be Muslim and not once was I ever concerned for my well-being (shocking, I know right?).  In fact, Hasib was probably one of the most polite, respectful and sweet 21-year-old guys I’ve ever met.  He also is a shining example of my #1 above.  His parents do not speak English, even though they immigrated to the US (from Bosnia) when Hasib was a small child.  Hasib, on the other hand, speaks English and Bosnian fluently and I frequently heard him in conversations on the phone switching mid conversation back and forth between the two without a pause.  It amazes me when someone does that!

Just because their religious beliefs and customs are different, doesn’t mean they are bad people.  Again, get over yourselves.  The top reason for immigrating to America when this country was discovered was religious persecution.  What exactly do you think it is that you’re doing to anyone who isn’t “Christian” now??  Christians didn’t want to be forced to worship under whatever ruler & whatever established religion for their country and therefore either fled or were banished to America.  Now all of a sudden, a lot of Christians have become snobs and forgotten their own heritage.

You may not realize it, but all of these things are forms of bullying.  Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others.  Notice the word abuse in there?

We really need to think about what we are saying and doing before we do it or say it.  Words and actions have lasting impact on people and what if your disrespectful post is what tips the scales for someone?  Are you really so callous that you would want harm to come to someone?  Life is fragile, love is strong.  Choose to build others up instead of tear them down.  Make a positive impact in this world instead of passing on the heritage of hate and disrespect.

How not to be a human.

As my father’s life nears it’s end, I’ve been reminded once again of how not to be as a human.  To use the phrase that is heard so often, his life is an epic fail.  Fortunately, my siblings and I have managed to take it and turn it into an example of how not to live as a spouse, a parent and overall as humans.

I’ve tried over the years to understand how a person could be so singularly cruel and unhappy.  What caused him to be like that?  I’ve come to the realization that I may never know that answer and quite honestly it isn’t important anymore.  It doesn’t change the fact that even as he nears the end, he continues to display such horrendously hurtful behavior that it causes me to question how one survives in life like that?  Are they driven by bitterness and the need to share that with everyone that surrounds them?  Are they so desperately unhappy with their own being that they have to make others feel smaller to make themselves feel better?

The plain and simple truth of it is this.  My father is and always has been a bully & a verbally, physically and emotionally abusive person.  There are no excuses for his behavior, no reasoning to why he acts that way.  It just is a fact.  A fact that as an adult I’ve had to realize.  His behavior isn’t about me, it isn’t about my siblings or our mom.  It is solely about him.

I did not fail him as a child.  Nothing I did was deserving of the cruel words or physical abuse he so easily gave out.  It has, however, robbed me of a dad.  For that, I mourn.  I do not mourn his death, I mourn his life.  I mourn that he was never able to see what a gift he had in his children, what a joy his grandchildren & great-grandchildren are.  I mourn the fact that he has no concept of what love is, what peace is, what joy is.

His death does not make me sad, his life does.  A life he chose to waste in anger, in hate, in cruelty.  As I look back, my only regret is that I did not have a true parent.  His cruelty and callous behavior robbed me of not only one parent, but of my other parent also.

I hope he finds peace in his death because sadly, that is what it will bring here on this earth when he’s gone.  Be mindful of the words you say, the actions you display; don’t be a perpetrator of a generation of fear and sadness.  Use your words and actions to uplift, to love and to be happy.

Oh and by the way, words can hurt you. (cont’d)

My senior year of college I actually had friends tell me they were scared to even talk to me as a freshman. They said I seemed so angry and closed off. I guess over the years the anger part had faded and while I was more approachable, I still didn’t let anyone inside my walls.

After graduating I made a few good friends and those walls started to crack. Unfortunately, the lesson I told myself never to forget had fallen by the wayside and in letting them inside part of my walls, things blew up in my face. The betrayal I felt was crushing and I was again reminded not to let anyone close enough to hurt me.

After the disaster my first girlfriend left in her wake and the “please others” marriage to my ex-husband, I reverted back to freezing everyone out. I had a lot of acquaintances but no real friends. I refused to allow anyone close enough to really know me.

Still, 23 years later, my fathers words make it hard for me to trust anyone. I rarely share my feelings and when I do there are very few who ever hear them.

I’ve learned the devastating results of cruel words and I am determined that I will never treat my son like that. I may not always like or agree with the choices he will make in life, but regardless he is still my child and I will always love and be proud of him. And I chose to say the most powerful phrase to him many times a day so that he never forgets, never questions and never fears that I don’t. I love you. And because I tell him that I hope that he will never doubt that he is worthy of anyone’s love and he will always, most of all, love himself.